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We used to get kind of excited whenever we read about a study confirming that abstinence-only "sex education" programs don't do shit. (Em's known this to be true ever since she fell out of love with Jesus and fell off the true-love-waits wagon in college, completely ignorant about matters of sexual health. And look what happened to her.) But then we realized that there's unfortunately no correlation between this kind of research and the millions of dollars of government money that are poured into said programs.

Numerous studies over the past few years have shown that abstinence-only education can actually wreak havoc on teenagers' sex lives, because when they do decide to have sex (and, yep, pretty much all of them eventually do...exhibit A, yours truly) they're clueless about how to protect themselves against STDs and unwanted pregnancies (exhibit B, Britney). And yet a new spending bill before Congress would give another $141 million to community-based, abstinence-only programs--$4 million more than what even Bush requested.

So forgive us if we don't break out the cupcakes and streamers over the news that yet another study just found that "there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners'' among teens. Sounds pretty damning to us, but then we're the proverbial choir being preached to. So we're taking our cupcakes and we're going home.



1 Comments

Lindsey Jo said:

This study doesn't surprise me at all. I just graduated from a school system that uses abstinence-only as the ONLY required sex-ed class. I did take Child Development and Health II, which both touch base on STDs and basic sex-ed stuff: the pill and condoms. However, the pregnancy rate in the school system has SKYROCKETED. In my high school there were roughly 550 students, about the same amount in the middle school. The shocking truth is, there were roughly ten pregnant teenagers in the high school alone in the last two years, and even as many as SIX reported pregnancies in the MIDDLE SCHOOL! Family Consumer Sciences, a required class in 8th grade, focuses ONLY on abstinence and the basic message is that, "IF YOU HAVE SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE YOU WILL GET AN STD OR GET PREGNANT AND CONSEQUENTLY DIE!" It shouldn't surprise anyone that the scare-tactics don't work, because what to so many teenagers do when they're told NOT to do something? Exactly. They DO it,and in this particular case, it can prove to be dangerous and detrimental to their health if they don't have the proper and correct information!

Before I graduated, I attempted to start an awareness group and was able to get a few teachers interested, but met a solid wall when it came to the administration. I wanted to have a school-based group in order to do the most good, but the school board wouldn't support the group because our main goal wasn't to preach abstinence. I was told that if the board DID support my venture, they would be in serious danger of losing state funding for not only the sex ed class, but for other classes as well. How messed up is that? But after all, why would schools want to protect their students by providing them with dependable, honest, and correct information about sex? How could we even ASK such a thing of our school systems?

I tried to get students talking about it by circulating information about the group I wanted to start and was overwhelmed by negative answers. One of my favorite responses was, "Oh, right, like I want to be part of a group that gives CONDOMS to little 12-year-olds!" Of course I wanted to reply that was absolutely not the point of the group, rather spreading knowledge and information, but of course I was not listened to.

My main point being, people don't WANT to realize that children as young as TWELEVE are having sex and yes, getting pregnant. They don't want to read about studies that point out the fact that their school systems are failing their students by failing to give them straight, honest answers that they may not be able to get anywhere else.

Many parents leave the sex education up to the school system because they feel too embarrassed to talk to their child. But where do children turn when the only information the school will give them about sex is that they will contract an STD (note: STD? Nah, that could never happen to ME!), or worse, get pregnant (note: Again, pregnancy? Nooo, that would NEVER happen to me! I'm sure the 10 pregnant teenagers in MY school would agree with that statement). How are children expected to know HOW an STD can be contracted, the signs and symptoms of said STD, and what to do if you DO get an STD or get pregnant?

So where do they turn for information about sex? The media? Oh, RIGHT, like that's unbiased and completely trustworthy information. According to the media, no one EVER waits for sex until marriage, no one EVER takes the time to put on a condom (Note: ever heard of "Knocked Up?"), and most importantly, there are rarely any negative consequences. I'm generalizing of course, not every show or movie or music video appears to support this skewed view, but the vast majority begs to differ.

So what are we supposed to do about it? Where do we turn? And most importantly, who will listen?

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Em & Lo, more formally known as Emma Taylor and Lorelei Sharkey, are the self-proclaimed Emily Posts of the modern bedroom.

Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City.

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